I’d like to begin by saying that if you’re offended by words you don’t use yourself, you better leave now. Because I’m fucking furious and when I’m angry, sweary words pop out of my mouth. I have yet to kill anyone with them, right enough. Words are powerful but they are just words. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but can we all just stop allowing “bad words” to hurt us? With that disclaimer, I have to tell you the motivation behind my fucking fury.
I cannot believe that I have, this very evening, found myself having to explain to grown men (who have wives and children) how not to be a sexual predator.
The crimes and misdemeanours of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and an as yet undisclosed list of Tory MPs are big news and as such social media is awash with public outcry. This is a good thing, right? Well you see, no. It’s not. Because the outcry is not “this is appalling, we shall not accept this” but “aw, trial by accusation is wrong; men are now afraid to approach women in case they are falsely accused” and the classic “#notallmen” with a glut of “men are abused too”. Yes, boys and men ARE abused, but by whom?
I had an inkling but, for the avoidance of doubt, I did some proper research. 1 in 3 women worldwide experience sexual violence in their lifetime. That’s one third of all women in the entire Universe. It’s actually slighter higher at 35%. If we look at the situation here in Scotland, 1 in 10 women have been raped. That is when someone (presumably a man, by definition) puts a penis (to my knowledge only men have penises) in a vagina, anus or mouth without consent. So men with penises have inserted them into, and against the wishes of, 10% of women in this country.
1 in 5 women, that’s 20% of women in Scotland, have had someone try to have sex with them against their will. And yes, men are raped too. 2% of men in Scotland have been raped. Now my math isn’t great but my 8 year old could tell you that 10% is 5 times as many as 2%. In addition, 4% of men have experienced someone trying to have sex with them against their will. 20% is also 5 times as many as 4%, so I feel it’s fair to conclude that women are 5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted and raped than men.
If we use the definition of rape taken from the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 (with the penises and all) it would appear that it’s men who are doing the raping of both men and women. Here’s some more stats to boggle your brain – 4% of women have experienced serious sexual assault since the age of 16, compared with 1% of men. If we look at stats from England and Wales, ‘each of the categories of abuse show significantly higher prevalence for women compared with men. The largest difference between the sexes was shown for sexual assault, with 19.9% of women and 3.6% of men having experienced sexual assault (including attempts) since the age of 16’. Are we seeing a pattern emerge? Women are subjected to sexual violence in a far greater capacity than men. That’s not me being a “fucking feminist bitch”. It is a statistical fact.
Now let’s look at the Criminal Justice system. In Scotland during 2014-15 there were:
• 1,901 rapes & attempted rapes reported to police
• 270 prosecutions
• 125 convictions (46.3% conviction rate for cases which reach court)
This means that only around 14% of reported rapes and sexual assaults make it to court and of those, the conviction rate is just 46.3%. Put simply, over 50% of people who go to court accused of rape and sexual assault walk free. One could argue free to do it again. And again. And again.
Now what I am hearing from a lot of men at the moment is “yeah, but what about false accusations? Eh? Eh??” Well, research suggests that ‘the rate of false allegations is no higher for rape than for other crimes’. So, contrary to popular belief, there is not a current trend and influx of women falsely reporting sex crimes.
Three years ago, a Government survey was conducted called Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2014: Attitudes to violence against women in Scotland. They spoke to around 1500 people so it’s not a wee, dafty Family Fortunes effort where they asked a hundred folk doon the precinct. 42% of respondees felt that a woman who wore revealing clothing was to blame for being raped. 40% believed that it’s a woman’s fault if she is drunk. 23% felt that women ‘often lie about being raped’. 37% agreed that ‘rape results from men being unable to control their need for sex’. What. The. Fuck.
Over one third of people interviewed for this survey think that men are mad sex beasts who cannot control where they stick their penis. I assume respondees were adults and not pre-school children. I have been as horny as the next person but I’ve never felt the need to go on a rampage and rub my fanny in someone’s face. Have you?
Since the allegations against Harvey Weinstein emerged, and the #metoo campaign gained more popularity (arguably because a white woman commandeered it from the black woman who originally created the hashtag), do you know how many women have told me that they have never been sexually harassed or assaulted? One. One woman across my entire circle of friends, family and social media acquaintances. Many, many more told me their stories. Publicly and privately. More, still, couldn’t.
Yes, women groom and sexually assault men. But the prevalence is negligible, so much so that I can’t find a stat for it. Does that make it any less awful? Of course not. Does bringing it up when women are finally finding their voice and pouring out their hearts and experiences minimise, silence and negate what they are saying? Yes. It does.
I have a son who is 8 years of age. I have already spoken to him about sex and consent, in an age appropriate manner. I will continue to do so. I challenge his assumptions that “boys are better at stuff than girls”. I teach him respect and empathy. Does that mean I should shut my mouth and not talk about male sexual predators because I am tarring my child with the same brush? No. It does not. It means that I have an even greater responsibility to challenge attitudes and assumptions in the hope that, by the time he is a man, sexual harassment, assault and violence will not be excused, accepted or brushed under the manky carpet.
We have a golden opportunity here to effect change. And change we must. The global popularity of “Who Moved My Cheese?”, a book published in the late 1990s is proof positive that people fundamentally do not like change. We struggle with it. It makes us uncomfortable. But do you know what’s even more uncomfortable? Having a penis shoved inside you when you don’t want it. So let’s cut all the bullshit and the whatabouttery and the he said/she said blame games. Let’s sort this shit. I wish I had the answers; could wave a magic wand and make it all go away, but I can’t. This is far too big a job for any one person. It is the responsibility of us all. So please don’t sit down and shut up. Don’t be afraid to challenge assumptions. Say your piece, and if you get it wrong? Put your hands up and listen to the views of others. We all have lessons to learn here but we must be receptive to them. In my humble opinion, a short period of discomfort is far preferable to a lifetime of the status quo. Just because “it’s the way it is” doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Throw caution to the wind and fucking roar!
If it hasn’t happened to you, that’s great. But you’re in the minority and that should be unacceptable to all of us. Nobody deserves to be subjected to sexual violence, in any form, at any time. Never. No more.